Uncertain about what you want to do in life? Find a passion!

It’s OK to not know what you want to do in life. However, know yourself well and love what you do.

I was recently talking with my nieces and some of my friend’s teenage daughters. All were in the later years of high school, stressed and anxious about what’s next in life. What do I want to do in life? What college should I attend or what major should I select? Do I take a year off? What job or career would suit me? Those are tough questions to ask of themselves and it doesn’t help that parents were pressing them as well.

These girls had so many options that they feared picking the wrong one. They also expressed they may be interested in one field, but didn’t think they could make a living at it. They also voiced that they may be far better at one subject and were talented at it, but didn’t like it. For example, they did well at math, but did not find it fulfilling or had any interest in studying or pursuing a career in it. At the same time, they love art, but think there will be little opportunity to make money or support themselves in that career.

My first reaction to this was to share some advice. Don’t worry about what you choose, just choose something and do it well. College, and life, is a place to explore a variety of careers and experiences. Take what interests you. It’s alright to change majors or not declare. The most popular major for freshman is undecided. Yes, it may cost more in the long run, but you will be happier. This didn’t go over well with the girls, so I investigated some more and found I was not completely right. There is more I could have offered.

One interesting point I came across is that changing careers in the future will be the norm. Most Millennials will have multiple jobs before they find a career or company they are comfortable with. According to a Forbes article, “Job Hopping is the ‘New Normal’ for Millenials,” the average worker today stays at a job only 4.4 years. This “new normal” doesn’t seem to be declining with Generation Z’s. The loyalty for a company is just not there like the Baby Boomer generation. What that means for the Millennials and Generation Z’s is that they need to develop job skills that can transfer across career paths. I encouraged the girls to learn and develop those skills that all employers seek. They can do this by gaining experience in the workforce or on campus with different activities and classes. You always gain something from any job or class you take, even if it’s just persistence or grit.

I also found information on a recent TED Talk by Scott Dinsmore. He expressed in his talk, “How to find work you love,” three things you need to consider: becoming a self-expert, knowing your values and gaining experience. Being so young, my nieces did not have many life experiences yet, but they could start to look within themselves at their strengths and weaknesses and start developing their values. How? Well, by exploring interests, taking on challenges and gaining knowledge.

Youth are still developing a picture of who they are and what they might be good at. That picture might not be so clear. They can take personality tests, aptitude tests, skills assessments or career surveys, all of which might help, but they need to look within themselves and find out what turns them on or what they are passionate about.

By working a job, attending a class or volunteering, youth acquire experiences and find what they like and dislike. They gain or develop a skill, strengthen a weak one or get out of their comfort zone. Plus, these experiences will mold their values and put them in contact with people that are passionate about the subject, job or cause. This can lead to more knowledge and inspiration.

Dinsmore also states that 80 percent of the workforce today does not enjoy the work they do. If they lack the passion for their job, they may lack purpose and be less productive. There is the quality of life to consider as well. If you truly love what you do, the money won’t matter as much. It will show in your satisfaction in life and in yourself.

What I now pass on to my nieces and others is to know yourself as best as you can now. Your “self” and your knowledge of yourself may change as you take on more challenges and experiences. Start gaining experiences in work, classes, volunteering or hobbies; this will help teach you more about who you are and what is out there. Finally, pick a path of passion. That, too, may change, but as you head down the trail, keep your head up for new opportunities and new pathways to explore.

For more information on 4-H and career exploration resources, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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